Before I start, let me just say that I am not a Michael Jordan apologist. Not one bit. There has never been anything about Michael Jordan, the executive, that causes me to overlook his faults while magnifying his accomplishments. It's extra easy to do that when talking about him in terms of his playing career, of course. Not too many missed buzzer beaters or bad decisions made by him on the court can be remembered., if any at all. When compared to his front office career though, it's a total polar opposite situation. Every single decision that M.J. has made that hasn't turned out to be golden somehow gets tossed in the category of being awful, no matter if the move was actually awful, bi-lateral, or even better on our behalf. And that's fine. It certainly isn't my duty to change anyone's views on the man or anything he has done. But quite honestly, I don't blame M.J. for the Bobcat's failures over the years. I mean, I know it's easy to. He is of course the owner of the team and therefore has the final say on everything that goes on within the organization. But it's not like Charlotte was ever in any kind of ideal situation to be screwed up.
Michael Jordan became majority owner of the Bobcats on February 27th, 2010
Let's get first to the fact that Jordan had absolutely nothing to do with some of the worst situations that occurred in our history. Yes, he had everything to do with the drafting of Kwame Brown, but that was part of a totally different organization and therefore has absolutely nothing to do with his time here. And although M.J. has certainly made some questionable decisions, it was in 2006 before he was even in place to do damage. So, you CAN'T blame him for turning down a trade that would've netted the Bobcats the opportunity to draft Chris Paul, drafting Sean May and Raymond Felton, Also recently, Rod Higgins came out and said that former Bobcat head coach Bernie Bickerstaff was actually the one who sold Jordan on probably his worst move, drafting Adam Morrison. However, I guess we have no choice but to blame that on him as well (did Bernie ever deny that?) since the evidence that he didn't is very underwhelming.
We're trying to model the rebuilding method of the Oklahoma City Thunder, but unlike them however, we truly started from dirt as an expansion team, which historically have a very rough first few years in the league. Let's take the last 6 expansion teams that began before our Bobcats for example and how they performed over over their first six seasons in the NBA:
Charlotte Hornets 1988(20-62), 1989 (19-63), 1990 (25-56), 1991 (31-51), 1992 (44-38), 1993 (41-41)
Miami Heat 1988 (15-67), 1989 (18-64), 1990 (24-58), 1991 (24-58), 1992 (36-46), 1993 (42-40)
Orlando Magic 1989 (18-64), 1990 (31-51), 1991 (21-61), 1992 (41-41), 1993 (50-32), 1994 (57-25)
Minnesota Timberwolves 1989 (22-60), 1990 (29-53), 1991 (15-67), 1992 (19-63), 1993 (20-62), 1994 (21-61)
Toronto Raptors 1995 (21-61), 1996 (30-52), 1997 (16-66), 1998 (23-27), 1999 (45-37), 2000 (47-35)
Vancouver Grizzlies 1995 (15-67), 1996 (14-68), 1997 (19-63), 1998 (8-42), 1999 (22-60), 2000 (23-59)
Now, a look at how our Bobcats over their first 6 seasons:
Charlotte Bobcats 2004 (18-64), 2005 (26-56), 2006 (33-49), 2007 (32-50), 2008 (35-47), 2009 (44-38)...........notice anything? From my perspective, looking at the numbers at least, the Bobcats don't pop out as a team that's had an awfully difficult time of building. I mean, of course they don't stand out like the Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors (who were able to obtain star players Shaquille O'neal and Vince Carter through the draft), but it's not like they've been on the epically terrible levels that the Grizzlies and Wolves were on as they struggled through their first few years. So as far as looking back on building teams from dirt, the Bobcats have been what they've always been before last year, mediocre and without a superstar to call our own. Not very good, and not very bad. But anything short of being good has never been enough for our fan base right?
Bad Moves, With Good Reason
How about this for an exercise? Let's take the 7 worst moves (in my opinion of course, no particular order) moves that the Bobcats have made with M.J. in the front office.
Traded Nazr Mohammed for Primoz Brezec and Walter Hermann: I never liked this move from the beginning. I had always thought Nazr was underrated at that time and age, but when I looked at his contract I felt that he was extremely overrated. Hermann and Brezec were on expiring deals and the Bobcats had just lost out on RFA Anderson Varejao and were doing all they could to make up for it. They made a stupid move just to rush things and ended up taking on more years of a bloated contract for a mediocre player in Mohammed, who was averaging under 4 points at the time of the trade. A case of the Bobcats overreaching for mediocrity.
Hired Sam Vincent as coach: A lot of people don't look at this as an epic failure by the Bobcats, but I certainly do. Before Vincent, the Bobcats were on a steady climb to the playoffs. The year Vincent took over represented the team's first step back from the previous season record wise and he lasted only a year in Charlotte.
Drafted Adam Morrison with #3 overall pick: Even with Bickerstaff probably campaigning for Morrison behind closed doors, M.J. should have still had the authority to override this pick, which he didn't. I hope he's learned a valuable lesson as far as judging talent goes and how athletic you need SFs in the NBA to be, but this one certainly hurt us. I place half blame on M.J. for letting the pick happen, but only half because I was somewhat intrigued by Morrison's game, though I never really thought he'd be good. It was one of those, "f it, we'll see what happens" moments for me. Now that I see what happened, I just want to leave it at "f it".
Re-signed Matt Carroll: The Cats fell in love with Carroll's J, as for a season he looked like he could rival some of the best 3 point shooters in the game. Matty Ice will always have a place in Cat's history as he turned out to be probably the best find for the scouting department at the time. At the time we signed him to his deal, he was coming off a year where he averaged 12 ppg and shot 42% from the 3 point line. 6 years, $27 million dollars for Ice, which wouldn't be a bad deal if he wasn't so worthless when he was off. However, when he's missing, he's probably among the worst players in the NBA. So, while I don't blame the Cats for bringing him back, I do blame the Cats for bringing back such a limited player on a long term deal. Just another case of the Cats overpaying for mediocrity.
Traded Matt Carrol and Ryan Hollins for Desagana Diop:Another case of the Bobcats reaching into the dumpsters of mediocrity to try to find a center of the future to pair with Emeka Okafor. In this deal we got rid of a terrible deal (that we signed up for ourselves) and then added an even more terrible deal to our roster in Diop. And the sad thing is we were really in pursuit of Diop for a while before this and actually had offered him the same money he's making as a free agent. I don't know what the hell kind of strange love affair the front office had with this guy, but I hope nothing like this ever happens again as he was NEVER worth the money. Sure, he started for a pretty decent Dallas Mavericks squad, but even then you are looking at a man that averaged less than 2 points and 4 rebounds at the time. And what did Rod Higgins have to say about the trade? "Just having another 7-footer is always good.".
No Rod, not always.
Re-signed Tyrus Thomas: Was it M.J.'s fault that Tyrus decided to sign up for the Biggest Losers: In More Ways than One television special. We can probably place some blame on M.J. for allowing/prompting Silas to play him at SF, which was a terrible disaster. However, Tyrus hasn't always been garbage and we did give up a first round pick for him. This is an incomplete grade at this point, because Tyrus could possibly recover. But right now it looks like a horrible move.
Dampier was never able to "bless us" with his "talents"
Traded Tyson Chandler for Erick Dampier, Matt Carrol, and Eduardo Najera : This is where things really start getting icky for the Bobcats because this was the first big move that could be seen as a salary dump for the franchise. The only problem is, the Bobcats still ended up paying out money to Najera and Carrol that they wouldn't have had to pay had they just let Chandler expire. Yes, I realize the Bobcats were trying to escape being close to the luxury, but more general fans either don't recognize this or don't care and ESPN and other media outlets treat it for what it is, a money saver. One in which a Mark Cuban or a Paul Allen wouldn't entertain because they are losing talent to save money. The only saving grace for M.J. here in my eyes is that there were rumors at the time that the contract was to be used as bait to land Chris Paul in a deal with the Hornets. Well, we know how that happened. I hate to say it, but this was just a bad deal overall. I understand the reasoning for it, but at the same time I think we could've got a heck of a lot more out of Chandler. Because quite frankly, as a fan, $13 million dollars saved does me no good. But I understand the reasoning.
It seems that when we think back on the history of the Bobcats, our minds allow us to only think about the terrible moves that we've made. However, believe it or not, there have been adequate moves made in the franchise's history.
Traded #8 pick in draft (Brandan Wright) for Jason Richardson : Wright is just now developing into a rotational player (on like his 4th team) in the NBA while Jason Richardson came in dropping over 20 ppg. I think this was a good deal for us.
Hired Larry Brown: I know it didn't turn out too great in the end, but it did end up with our first playoff run ever and Larry still must be respected as a hall of fame coach.
Traded Raja Bell and Vladimir Radmonovic for Stephen Jackson: When the trade was made, Bell was an expiring contract and almost crippled while Vlad had a couple more deals left on his contract and was basically useless as a player. I think we won this deal.
Traded Emeka Okafor for Tyson Chandler: The Hornets are STILL trying to get rid of Okafor to this day. Although we turned Chandler into trash, eliminating Okafor from the books was also a good move on our end.
The Worst Team in NBA History
First of all, let me say this, I fully expected to be one of the worst teams in the NBA before this season started, and I honestly believe the front office did as well. Please don't hurl any of the tank crap at me because it was clear to see there was a certain degree of "tanking" going on when Felton left and Chandler was traded for trash.Honestly, any move built towards the future can be considered tanking in some sense. The Lakers kinda "tanked" when they traded Lamar Odom for a draft pick this year. The Blazers "tanked" when Marcus Camby was traded away at the deadline. The Golden State Warriors tanked last year in so many ways that fans were across the NBA were actually hollering that they didn't even deserve to be in the lottery.
No, I know there is a clear difference between tanking to lose an extra couple of games and tanking to throw away an entire season, which I don't believe was our plan at all. When the season started, looking at the roster, with everyone performing on a good level, a LOT of posters said we had a good outside shot to make the playoffs in the east. However, that was before we discovered that Tyrus Thomas was getting his body in shape to play the Crypt Keeper in a new movie. That was before we realized that Diop and Boris were basically obese NBA players. Or that it was written that Maggette would miss more than his share of games this year. Or that Reggie Williams would take half a season just to touch the court. Listen, we were a bad team that only got worse.
As I look back, I still don't see a roster so bad that they are expected to be, or even compete for the worst team in NBA history, so I really don't pin that on the front office at all. We knew they were going for a top pick before the season ever started. We didn't know damn near our entire starting lineup would miss dozens of games this year with injuries or that key contributors would show up after the lockout with serious health issues. The youth on this team, combined with the injuries, combined with the lockout added for a perfect storm for the team to end up as the worst ever, which by the way we could've avoided with one more win (makes me think back to the OT loss against Detroit where Will Bynum hit that big 3 to send it there). But either way, those of you that continuously point out the dubiousness of holding the record don't realize you would've been just upset if we avoided it. We were the worst team in the NBA this year regardless and I'm sure you wouldn't have been able to let that go. But now is the time to look forward to the future. We're in a position to get this mess cleaned, and there is no reason to live in the past. We're back to 0-0 and are in the same boat as 28 other teams out there. Other than Indiana, who in the east really thinks they can hang with Miami now? Certainly not Chicago with Rose suffering the injury he did. They'll be lucky to make the playoffs next year. And what about out west? What team out there really thinks they can compete with the Thunder? Let's not envy any team other than the ones playing for the ultimate goal, an NBA title. And let's not make these moves again that send us back to mediocrity, since in Charlotte, we take that as being absolutely awful.
Hey, I'm Not Totally Convinced
Before I'm able to tell everyone that Michael Jordan has changed, I need to convince myself. And though the hiring of Rich Cho and the roster moves made since that time are pretty convincing, there are a few issues at hand that make me think that this is the same old regime. Being courteous to those that have no faith in M.J., I'll take their points of view into hand and speak on them.
For one, the thing that still bothers me most is the fact that Cory Higgins is still on the roster. I'm not sure if he'll be back next year, but I certainly hope not. I think the fact that he was on our team (because he's daddy is in our front office) is a slap in the face to all of the fans who want to field a competitive team. I know I've certainly never liked that move at all. And it's caused me to rethink exactly how serious M.J. is taking this thing, even with Rich Cho aboard.
M.J. may just be cheap. It's very possible that this whole rebuilding thing is more about him trying to turn a profit than actually building a great team. It's hard to tell since those things can sometimes go together when you're trying to build for the draft, but it makes you wonder. On the other hand though, we did hand Tyrus Thomas a ridiculous contract so he probably really doesn't mind spending if he sees any potential in the player he's spending it on.
Another thing that bothers me, and has bothered me since our rebuilding process began has been our asset management. No good assets in return for Chandler, nothing for Felton, nothing for Diaw, and we're in position to possibly receive nothing for D.J. Augustin, one of our most valuable assets at the moment. If we let every strip of talent we go at the cost of saving money, we'll be on different from the Clippers before they lucked up and drafted Blake Griffin.
And what's with this talk of Harrison Barnes at #2 in the draft? Don't get me wrong, I'm intrigued by Barnes, but that's only because of his combine tests. Watching him this year really turned off the prospect of drafting him at all, especially not with the number 2 pick. But now we're seeing that he's actually under consideration for OUR team. I don't like it, but I'm trusting that there is something Cho actually sees in him rather than MJ, which would curtail my worries just a tad bit. However, isn't it funny how for a lot of us the plan last year was to actually be able to pick up Barnes this year, only we thought we'd need the number 1 pick to do it? And now that we can, most don't even want to do it. Lol. Either way, the fact that we're giving thought to this worries me. Again, I'm not totally turned off to the idea, but at the same time, feelings of "the same old Bobcats" come back pretty fast. ESPECIALLY when I hear things like we are thinking about trading the pick for someone like Gay.
The Bottom Line
I guess I'm bothered by a lot of posters feeling the need to get rid of M.J. because I'm a huge believer of second chances in life, period. Not just when it comes to the NBA, but basically everything. There was no part of me that wanted Michael Vick or Plaxico Burress to have their careers end with a prison sentence. Every president I've seen in office I felt should have been given a 2nd term to make everything right. It's just me.
So when a man does a complete 160 degree turn on the way they've been doing things that obviously hasn't turned out the most success, I can't help but feel compelled to give that man a chance to see that vision through. In the NBA, one or two years is nowhere near enough time to fairly evaluate the results of the plans. These are human beings we are dealing with here, not video game avatars that get extra rating points every few seconds. 29 year old Kobe Bryant would absolutely DESTROY 22 year old Kobe Bryant even though they are both outstanding players. You have to give these kids time to grow.
I was in the barbershop the other day getting a cut when a few fellow customers were discussing the team. I stayed out of the conversation because I didn't know the men talking but they eventually came across discussing how bad the Bobcats were this year. As I stood up and my barber removed the cover from over me after my cut, my Bobcats playoff t-shirt was revealed to them prompting them to ask, "are you really a Bobcats fan". I replied with a "yeah, gotta run with the home team" prompting them to begin a discussion about how they weren't from the area and had no allegiance to those "bums".
They then began talking about how the team would never win anything with Michael Jordan as the GM, and said the only talent the team had was Gerald Henderson, Byron Mullens, Bismack Biyombo, and Kemba Walker.
The irony of their words caused me to just leave. My cut was done.
In the end though, I think we need to all realize that building a winning team in the NBA is NOWHERE near as simple as a lot of us are trying to make it seem. Sure, it's not as hard as Michael Jordan has made it. During our playoff year, had we another player or two who outplayed their contracts instead of the likes of Diop then we could've done a lot more. Hell, even if we only had a coach that really cared about developing young talent and/or using all of the weapons he had on his bench, we would've looked slightly better against Orlando. Perhaps even if those players weren't in place, we would've had the finances needed to retain all of our talent (mainly Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler) and would've been able to continue into the next year to see how they performed. Hell, maybe even we only had a richer owner who didn't mind paying big dollars to keep the team together that we had, the Bobcats wouldn't be viewed as such a failure. We'd probably even be coming off of our 3rd straight playoff appearance right about now, and M.J. wouldn't be viewed as one of the worst owners/gms/front office executives of all time.
But this is the reality we are living in. Quite frankly though, I don't JUST blame M.J. for it. What do I blame? First of all, I blame our luck. The fact that we can't get a top pick in the draft and are always put in an awkward position with draft picks, as we will be this year. There has never been a LeBron James, a Kevin Durant, or even an Anthony Davis fall in our lap. The best we've been in position to do is Rudy Gay, and even he isn't good enough to have a team as an outside threat to make the playoffs every year. I guess I could blame the front office for not landing a superstar through free agency or putting together a creative enough package to trade for one, but let's be realistic here. I blame the fans. The fans that don't support the Bobcats because either they are named the "Bob"cats or just because they aren't named the Hornets. I blame the market, especially the one in Charlotte, where 80% of the "fans" show up to games to see other teams and 60% aren't from the Charlotte area anyway and couldn't care less about the Bobcats. I blame Larry Brown for wanting change so bad that whatever little chemistry the core we had was developing before his time dissolved the instant Okafor was traded. M.J. should take some of the blame. Even though Adam Morrison, Desagana Diop, and other moves probably weren't his ideas, he still signed off on them. As a GM, he put the team in a position to need a mass rebuilding since the market couldn't support it. As an owner, he's executing that same mass rebuilding process so he's in the position of actually destroying his creation, since he doesn't have the finances to keep it going. We've been in position to be a mediocre team since our inception. It's hard for me to say that M.J. needs to go because other GM's aren't stupid enough to give him a package that makes him look like a genius or he hasn't struck gold in the draft as so few teams do.
The fact that we're going though this whole rebuild though is one of the reasons it's hard for me to put everything on M.J. He's trying. He thought outside the box and hired Rich Cho. He changed his philosophy from plugging in big contract vets hoping for a quick turn around to a more patient approach (which remains to be seen.) He's passed on hiring credible friends (Patrick Ewing and Nate McMillan) just to avoid the further criticisms that come with him hiring friends.
Let's give him a shot.